DUBAI // Emirati parents are turning to private tutors in heavy numbers, a study has found.
Research conducted among 180 students at UAE University by Samar Farah from the Dubai School of Government found 66 per cent of students in the university's foundation programme had taken private lessons during Grade 12. The majority of respondents had attended public schools.
"This is quite a high percentage of students seeking after-school lessons," said Ms Farah, whose report Private Tutoring Trends in the UAE will be published this week.
About 75 per cent of the boys took extra lessons in mathematics and 43 per cent received help in biology.
In contrast, 48 per cent of girls said they were tutored in mathematics and 10 per cent went for extra biology classes.
"The issue is more pronounced when it comes to male students, who are more likely to engage in private tutoring, across multiple subjects." Ms Farah said. "It's not always academic purposes but many parents believe it is a sign of good parenting."
More worrying to Ms Farah is that 53 per cent of the male students were being tutored after hours by their daytime teachers.
“This has serious and considerable implications: it corrupts the relationship between the teacher and pupils and could lead to favouritism and blackmail,” Ms Farah said.
Private tutoring is illegal in the UAE – visa holders may not work for anyone other than their sponsor – but it is near impossible to regulate.
Saeed al Katbi, the head of the Sharjah Education Zone, said private tutoring is common during the exam period, which starts this month. “Educators could face serious legal action if caught,” he said.
“Teachers are using private tutoring as a profitable business on the side and are approached by pupils who feel they have not fully understood lessons in class.”
The majority of educators in public schools are Arab expatriates who earn around Dh7,000 a month.
Private lessons can cost Dh100 to Dh200 an hour, with teachers increasing their rates during the examination period. On an average, a teacher can double their monthly salary through private tuition.
The trend has put pupils, especially boys, in a situation, where education is compromised in schools to compel pupils to attend private lessons.
“It is also leading to an inequality between parents who can afford to pay for tutors and those who cannot, adversely affecting the school system itself,” said Ms Farah.
Sultan Khalid, a Grade 12 pupil at Hamza Bin Abdel Muttalib school in Abu Dhabi, takes extra lessons in mathematics.
“It is expensive but I do not think what they teach in school is enough,” said the pupil, who pays Dh1,000 a month for lessons.
Sultan said he goes twice a week, either right after school or at night, to complete the syllabus.
“I go to a teacher who teaches at another school and a lot of my friends do, too.”
Reem al Hashimi, a mathematics teacher at Al Yarmouk School in Abu Dhabi, said she explains to parents that private lessons are not necessary.
“We discourage them from hiring tutors because if the child is attentive in class then it is not required,” she said.
She said a lot of pupils take extra lessons in mathematics but the school is trying to offer extra coaching to avoid this.
“If they have doubts they can come to us before the school day begins. We also promote peer teaching [pupils teaching each other], which is very productive.”
Ms Farah said that while it was not possible to completely ban private tutoring, it can be regulated.
“Teachers should be banned from tutoring their own students and a code of ethics must be developed and educators must be monitored at school to ensure standards are maintained,” she said.
Improving incentives for teachers and creating awareness among parents about the issues are also necessary to address the problem, she said.
* With additional reporting by Maey El Shoush